sperm donor

/sperm donor

Episode 37: Kate from VARTA

By |2019-03-18T01:52:01+00:00March 18th, 2019|Categories: Australia, donor agreement, egg donation, sperm donor, Surrogacy Podcast|

Kate Bourne is the Donor Services Manager at the Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority (VARTA), which provides independent information and support for individuals, couples, and health professionals on fertility, infertility, assisted reproductive treatment (ART) and the best interests of children born. Kate talked to me about VARTA’s work with supporting parents, donors and donor-conceived people, and the importance of being truthful about donor conception and telling early. VARTA hosts Time to Tell seminars each year, and also provides a wealth of information and resources for anyone in the donor and surrogacy community.

When it comes to making decisions about using a donor or surrogate in Australia or overseas, Kate has a litmus test that she suggests people apply:  When I talk to my children, can I hold my head up high and say, this is a lovely story to tell them? Is there any part of the story that is awkward to tell?

Kate and I also talked about VARTA’s Donor Legacy Project, which aims to provide resources that can assist donors to create and submit information to the Voluntary Register. The Legacy Project is an option to leave a video, or online photobook, for donor-conceived offspring to access at a later date. I love this idea and will be making a video of the DCPs I’ve helped to create.

VARTA has a wealth of resources, for surrogates, intended parents, donors and donor-conceived people. Check out their website, which is useful for anyone, regardless of which State you live in.

Hi! I’m Sarah Jefford. I’m a surrogacy, fertility and family lawyer. I’m also an IVF Mum, an egg donor and a traditional surrogate, and I delivered a baby for her Dads in 2018.

I promote positive, empowered altruistic surrogacy arrangements within Australia, and provide support and education to help intended parents make informed decisions when pursuing overseas surrogacy.

You can get in touch with me through the options below.

Contact Me

PO Box 366, Batman VIC 3058

Phone: 0400481703

Egg Donation

By |2019-03-14T11:07:12+00:00March 11th, 2019|Categories: Blog, egg donation, infertility, sperm donor|

Egg donation is one of those topics that garners interest on social media occasionally, and warrants a warm fuzzy headline now and again, but good quality information and resources are lacking. There are restrictions on advertising for an egg donor, and whether you’re a donor or a recipient, finding the right information can be a matter of tenacity.

So, what is the deal with egg donation in Australia?

Firstly, it’s altruistic. Egg donors, like surrogates, cannot be paid for providing their eggs, but they must have their medical and out of pocket expenses covered. Unfortunately, there are no clear guidelines in Australia about what expenses must be covered, which means this can be different across Clinics and States. A better system, perhaps, is that which exists in the UK, where egg donors can claim up to £750 for expenses, regardless of where they donate or their particular circumstances.

Gone are the days when someone can donate sperm or eggs completely anonymously. We know better, and we do better. The child’s interests are now recognised as paramount, and we acknowledge that donor-conceived people have a right to know their genetic heritage and have access to information about their donors, and their genetic relatives.  And whilst everyone is different, and every family is different, it’s the access to information, if they want it, which is important.

Donor-Conception, whether as a donor or recipient, is complex and should involve deep consideration for the consequences, and importantly for the rights and interests of any donor-conceived people that result. By law, they have a right to know of their donor-conception and have access to information about their donor. Research shows that donor-conceived people benefit from knowing their story from an early age, and having access to information, and the opportunity of a relationship with their donor may also be something they want.

How do egg donors and recipients meet?

In the case of egg donation, most Clinics do not have access to an egg bank, and there are less egg donors than there are recipients. Egg donation, unlike Clinic-recruited sperm donation, often involves recipients and donors meeting and getting to know each other before the donation occurs.

Donors and recipients often want to know the criteria required for a donor. There are no laws determining the age or requirements for donors. Many Clinics will have age limits, and may also stipulate that the donor must have had their own child. The fact remains, however, that many women are still donating in their late 30’s, and many donors have never had their own child. Remember, there are reasons for the age restrictions – an older donor is less likely to produce high numbers of eggs as a younger donor. But fertility is fickle and unpredictable, and a 37 year-old donor might provide excellent numbers and quality and a 25 year-old donor might have less success. You can expect that most Clinics will be reluctant to cycle with a donor in her 40’s.

There are no government-run egg donor recruitment options. Most people find each other on forums, such as Egg Donation Australia. There’s also a Facebook group which is worth joining.

You may also consider telling your story to friends and family. Many recipients like the idea of a genetic link between themselves and their donor, so asking sisters and cousins is a good option. Keep in mind, donation isn’t for everyone, and many women can’t fathom sharing their genetics beyond making a child with their partner.

What’s involved in being an Egg Donor?

Egg donation involves couselling for the donor, her partner, and the recipients. The counselling should cover everyone’s motivations and expectations in going ahead with the donor-arrangement, including expectations for future relationships and for the child’s relationship with the donor and their family.

Once the counselling is completed, the donor can commence an IVF cycle, with the intention that the eggs collected will be fertilised with sperm from the recipient (or a sperm donor) and used by the recipients to achieve a pregnancy, either themselves or through a surrogacy arrangement.

The donor details are kept by the Clinic, and in Victoria, reported to the regulator VARTA, and kept on the Central Register. The Register is private, but donors, their offspring, recipients and donor-conceived people can apply to access information on the Register if they are over 18. Applying for information generally involves counselling by a qualified counsellor.

Is the Donor Considered a Parent?

No, is the short answer. At birth, the presumption is that the birth mother is the legal parent, and if she has a partner, they are also the legal parent. Whilst the donor is genetically linked to the baby, genetics alone does not make a parent. The donor will have no parental rights or responsibilities, and whilst their information is recorded on the Birth Record, there is no parenting status that comes from that.

If you are an egg donor or recipient of donor eggs, there is no harm in obtaining legal advice about your rights and responsibilities. However, the Clinic process and counselling should address the consequences and legal aspects of donation. Many egg donor arrangements proceed successfully without any need for the parties to obtain legal advice. Some teams like having a written Memorandum or Agreement which outlines their expectations for the future relationship, such as what time the donor will spend with any children that result from the donation. Any written Agreement is unenforceable, but might be useful to make sure everyone is on the same page.

Resources

We do gamete donation much better than used to be done, with better regulations and laws protecting the interests and rights of donor-conceived people. For more resources about donation:

Sperm Donation and laws: Joe Donor and the Consequences of Online Conception

Donor Resources at the Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority (VARTA)

My reflections on egg donation: Seeing Yourself in Someone Else’s Child

Donor reflections: Podcast interviews with Carla or Amber.

Hi! I’m Sarah Jefford. I’m a surrogacy, fertility and family lawyer. I’m also an IVF Mum, an egg donor and a traditional surrogate, and I delivered a baby for her Dads in 2018.

I promote positive, empowered altruistic surrogacy arrangements within Australia, and provide support and education to help intended parents make informed decisions when pursuing overseas surrogacy.

You can get in touch with me through the options below.

Contact Me

PO Box 366, Batman VIC 3058

Phone: 0400481703

Joe Donor and the Consequences of Online Conception

By |2019-02-20T02:39:42+00:00February 19th, 2019|Categories: Blog, donor agreement, egg donation, infertility, ivf, laws, lgbt, sperm donor, victoria, written agreements|

If you watched  60 Minutes recently you’d know all about Joe Donor – the American man who claims to have donated sperm to over 800 women, resulting in over 100 babies born (admittedly, that means his success rate is less than 13%, which is about average and to be frank, there’s nothing super about his sperm). His method – either ‘natural’ or ‘artificial’ insemination – does not involve any formal agreement with the recipients (mostly single women or same-sex female couples), nor does it involve legal advice or medical assistance. It’s not a unique thing to do (although the sheer number of donations is), and many forums and Facebook groups are set up to facilitate a relationship between sperm donors and recipients in Australia. But what are the legalities and consequences of online sperm donation – for the recipients, donors and the donor-conceived people – that result from online conception?

In my experience as an egg donor, we didn’t require any written Agreement or formal document to confirm our arrangement or intentions for our future relationships, or my relationship with any donor-conceived children. The IVF Clinic had a bunch of consent forms that we completed, with my partner and I signing our consent for the recipients to use the embryos as they wished. Under Victorian law, I can withdraw my consent for the use of those embryos at any time up to the point of them being transferred. I have no parental rights or responsibilities for any donor-conceived children. I am not liable for child support. Under the Family Law Act, the woman who births the baby is presumed to be the legal parent, and her partner is also presumed to be the parent, regardless of the genetics of the child.

So how is sperm donation different? Well, there are a few different ways of conceiving via sperm donation, and the method can impact on the consequences. For example, utilising a ‘clinic-recruited’ sperm donor, usually involves the recipient knowing very little, and having no relationship, with the donor. In this case, the birth mother registers the birth, can list her partner as the other parent, and the donor details can be recorded on the Birth Registration. In Victoria, a Central Register exists where donor details are stored, so that the child can apply for information about their donor once they turn 18. The donor does not partake in any parenting role nor are they liable for child support.

A similar arrangement can exist with a known donor (such as a friend, family member or acquaintance), if it is facilitated through a Clinic. Recipients and donors who use a Clinic are put through counselling about the arrangement, and they have discussions about their expectations for future roles and relationships. Generally speaking, a sperm donor in a Clinic is treated the same as an egg donor. When the birth occurs, the birth mother’s partner is listed as the other parent, and the donor’s details are kept in the Birth Registration and the Central Register.

So what of those conceptions with a donor via artificial insemination at home? Well, this is where written agreement can be really useful. Whilst the presumption is that a birth mother and her partner are the legal parents, there can be questions about whether the donor is a donor, or a parent, unless there is a written Agreement confirming the arrangement. Donor Agreements are evidence of the parties’ intentions prior to conception, and can be used to register the birth and to ensure the donor is not liable for child support.  Is the donor only a donor, or will he take on a parenting role? Will he be known as ‘Uncle’ and take on a special role in the child’s life, or stay completely out of it? Will the child visit him on weekends or not see him ever again? The variations on intentions and roles can play a huge part in how a Court may see him and his role in the future. Whilst Donor Agreements are not enforceable, (and I’ve seen many a keyboard expert tell people not to bother with them), they can be crucial in protecting everyone and ensuring the relationships are clear and understood. The fact is, intentions and expectations can change, and relationships and roles can change. Is a donor just a donor, or can he be a parent? The High Court will be determining this exact issue, in the case of Parsons and Anor & Masson.

What about natural insemination? Well, this is a whole other kettle of fish. If the conception was achieved in the traditional way, then the ‘donor’ is, by law, a parent, and he is liable for child support, and needs to be registered on the Birth Certificate.

And what of the children? Donor-conceived children’s interests are often not considered deeply enough by everyone involved. They’re certainly not considered by Joe Donor. Note that the 60 Minutes interview with him focused mainly on the well-being of the women conceiving with Joe’s sperm, and very little consideration was given to the rights or interests of any children conceived from his donations. But, interviews with VARTA counsellor Kate Bourne and Chloe Allworthy (herself a donor-conceived person) pointed out that donor-conceived people want to know their origins, have a right to information about their origins, and should not be treated as secondary to the interests of Joe or the women seeking to conceive with his help. What will these children say of the legacy of their conception when they grow up? How will the children conceived with Joe’s sperm feel about having 100+ donor siblings? Chloe, and many other donor-conceived adults, are speaking up now, and it would be negligent of us not to listen to them.

As an egg donor, I underwent many hours of counselling and considered the ramifications of my donations from many angles. On the face of it, donation can seem like a lovely, altruistic thing to do, and similar to donating blood. Except donated blood doesn’t grow up and become a real-life person with thoughts and feelings of their own. Even with the significant consideration and counselling, I still find that my feelings and thoughts about donor-conception are challenged and changed all the time. I don’t know how I will feel about the people conceived from my eggs in 5, 10 or 25 years. I don’t know how they will feel about me, or what role they will want me to have (or whether I’ll want to have it) when they are teenagers, adults or raising their own children. Donor-conception should not be a quick decision over some Joe Donor you met on the internet; it has life-long ramifications for the children, their families, the donor and their families.

If you are thinking of conceiving with the help of a donor, I urge you to consider your options, and seek legal advice before you attempt to conceive. This applies to potential sperm donors and recipients. Counsellors with experience in donor-conception can also be really helpful to help you decide the best way to move forward. For more information about donor conception, check out the resources at VARTA here in Victoria.

Want to talk about Donor Agreements and options? You can book a consult with me below.

Hi! I’m Sarah Jefford. I’m a surrogacy, fertility and family lawyer. I’m also an IVF Mum, an egg donor and a traditional surrogate, and I delivered a baby for her Dads in 2018.

I promote positive, empowered altruistic surrogacy arrangements within Australia, and provide support and education to help intended parents make informed decisions when pursuing overseas surrogacy.

You can get in touch with me through the options below.

Contact Me

PO Box 366, Batman VIC 3058

Phone: 0400481703

Book an initial 30 minute consult

Click here to book!

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This Sliding Bar can be switched on or off in theme options, and can take any widget you throw at it or even fill it with your custom HTML Code. Its perfect for grabbing the attention of your viewers. Choose between 1, 2, 3 or 4 columns, set the background color, widget divider color, activate transparency, a top border or fully disable it on desktop and mobile.